Living in the Midwest, we get a full sense of the renewal of creation as we move from winter into spring.
Apparently, due to a certain groundhog by the name Puxatawnie Phil, we still have a couple more weeks of winter ahead. Nonetheless, the end of winter is near.
We feel it on our skin. With daily temperatures are now in the 40's instead of the 0's, lightweight jackets are replacing parkas.
We see it visually. Two weeks ago, there was over a foot snow in my front yard. Now there is none. With the recent melt, gone, at least for now, are the ugly, mud-stained piles of snow in parking lots and by the side of the road. Soon the grass will begin to turn green, the trees will bud, and finally burst forth in fullness.
We hear it with our ears. "The Chicago Cubs are on the air! From Wrigley Field in Chicago, it's the Chicago Cubs against the (insert team about to get swept by the 2018 World Series Champions)."
And, of course, we smell it. April showers bring May flowers - lots of flowers. But, for some, allergies.
The funny thing about allergies is that they remind us of the limited scope of spring's renewal. Even the best of springs cannot undo the damage of The Fall. We remain fallen, fragile, and finite.
For all the sensory renewal that we, as Midwesterners, experience with spring, it is a temporary and incomplete renewal of the creation around us. Eventually, spring gives way to summer, summer to fall, and we then find ourselves watching everything around us die or go dormant as winter arrives - again. Not only that, while we enjoy spring in Illinois, the southern hemisphere is slipping into fall. Our world is always in need of renewal.
For many, spring serves as a beautiful, yet frustrating, foretaste of the New Heavens and the New Earth - especially for those who have suffered a deep and painful loss in the past year. Spring will not bring the restoration the families whose children died in the Parkland, Florida shooting. Families that have been ripped apart by alcoholism or opiate addiction will still long for an end to their pain.
As we finish up our short study of the letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor, we are reminded that each of these churches was waiting for the final restoration of all things. And the words of Christ to those churches were intended to give them comfort and hope.
"Behold, I am coming soon!" Jesus tells the church in Philadelphia.
Each of the churches then and every church since has been waiting for Christ to return and restore all things - once and for all. To each of the seven churches, Jesus promised something to the one who conquers. All of that language culminates in these words of Jesus in Revelation 21,
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!